Twenty Arguments for God – Five – The Design Argument

This post is one of a serious that picks apart the arguments for god that can be found at the link below. This post addresses number 5:

http://www.peterkreeft.com/topics-more/20_arguments-gods-existence.htm#5
If you don’t want to click over there to read it, the full argument goes like this:

5. The Design Argument

This sort of argument is of wide and perennial appeal. Almost everyone admits that reflection on the order and beauty of nature touches something very deep within us. But are the order and beauty the product of intelligent design and conscious purpose? For theists the answer is yes. Arguments for design are attempts to vindicate this answer, to show why it is the most reasonable one to give. They have been formulated in ways as richly varied as the experience in which they are rooted. The following displays the core or central insight.
The universe displays a staggering amount of intelligibility, both within the things we observe and in the way these things relate to others outside themselves. That is to say: the way they exist and coexist display an intricately beautiful order and regularity that can fill even the most casual observer with wonder. It is the norm in nature for many different beings to work together to produce the same valuable end—for example, the organs in the body work for our life and health. (See also argument 8.)
Either this intelligible order is the product of chance or of intelligent design.
Not chance.
Therefore the universe is the product of intelligent design.
Design comes only from a mind, a designer.
Therefore the universe is the product of an intelligent Designer.
The first premise is certainly true-even those resistant to the argument admit it. The person who did not would have to be almost pathetically obtuse. A single protein molecule is a thing of immensely impressive order; much more so a single cell; and incredibly much more so an organ like the eye, where ordered parts of enormous and delicate complexity work together with countless others to achieve a single certain end. Even chemical elements are ordered to combine with other elements in certain ways and under certain conditions. Apparent disorder is a problem precisely because of the overwhelming pervasiveness of order and regularity. So the first premise stands.
If all this order is not in some way the product of intelligent design—then what? Obviously, it “just happened.” Things just fell out that way “by chance.” Alternatively, if all this order is not the product of blind, purposeless forces, then it has resulted from some kind of purpose. That purpose can only be intelligent design. So the second premise stands.
It is of course the third premise that is crucial. Ultimately, nonbelievers tell us, it is indeed by chance and not by any design that the universe of our experience exists the way it does. It just happens to have this order, and the burden of proof is on believers to demonstrate why this could not be so by chance alone.
But this seems a bit backward. It is surely up to nonbelievers to produce a credible alternative to design. And “chance” is simply not credible. For we can understand chance only against a background of order. To say that something happened “by chance” is to say that it did not turn out as we would have expected, or that it did turn out in a way we would not have expected. But expectation is impossible without order. If you take away order and speak of chance alone as a kind of ultimate source, you have taken away the only background that allows us to speak meaningfully of chance at all. Instead of thinking of chance against a background of order, we are invited to think of order-overwhelmingly intricate and ubiquitous order-against a random and purposeless background of chance. Frankly, that is incredible. Therefore it is eminently reasonable to affirm the third premise, not chance, and therefore to affirm the conclusion, that this universe is the product of intelligent design.
Question 1: Hasn’t the Darwinian theory of evolution shown us how it is possible for all the order in the universe to have arisen by chance?
Reply: Not at all. If the Darwinian theory has shown anything, it has shown, in a general way, how species may have descended from others through random mutation; and how survival of these species can be accounted for by natural selection—by the fitness of some species to survive in their environment. In no way does it—can it—account for the ubiquitous order and intelligibility of nature. Rather, it presupposes order. To quote a famous phrase: “The survival of the fittest presupposes the arrival of the fit.” If Darwinians wish to extrapolate from their purely biological theory and maintain that all the vast order around us is the result of random changes, then they are saying something which no empirical evidence could ever confirm; which no empirical science could ever demonstrate; and which, on the face of it, is simply beyond belief.
Question 2: Maybe it is only in this region of the universe that order is to be found. Maybe there are other parts unknown to us that are completely chaotic—or maybe the universe will one day in the future become chaotic. What becomes of the argument then?
Reply: Believers and nonbelievers both experience the same universe. It is this which is either designed or not. And this world of our common experience is a world of pervasive order and intelligibility. That fact must be faced. Before we speculate about what will be in the future or what may be elsewhere in the present, we need to deal honestly with what is. We need to recognize in an unflinching way the extent—the overwhelming extent—of order and intelligibility. Then we can ask ourselves: Is it credible to suppose that we inhabit a small island of order surrounded by a vast sea of chaos—a sea which threatens one day to engulf us?
Just consider how in the last decades we have strained fantastically at the limits of our knowledge; we have cast our vision far beyond this planet and far within the elements that make it up. And what has this expansion of our horizons revealed? Always the same thing: more—and not less—intelligibility; more—and not less—complex and intricate order. Not only is there no reason to believe in a surrounding chaos, there is every reason not to. It flies in the face of the experience that all of us—believers and nonbelievers—share in common.
Something similar can be said about the future. We know the way things in the universe have behaved and are behaving. And so, until we have some reason to think otherwise, there is every reason to believe it will continue on its orderly path of running down. No speculation can nullify what we know.
And, anyway, exactly what sort of chaos is this question asking us to imagine? That effect precedes cause? That the law of contradiction does not hold? That there need not be what it takes for some existing thing to exist? These suggestions are completely unintelligible; if we think about them at all, it is only to reject them as impossible. Can we imagine less order? Yes. Some rearrangement of the order we experience? Yes. But total disorder and chaos? That can never be considered as a real possibility. To speculate about it as if it were is really a waste of time.
Question 3: But what if the order we experience is merely a product of our minds? Even though we cannot think utter chaos and disorder, maybe that is how reality really is.
Reply: Our minds are the only means by which we can know reality. We have no other access. If we agree that something cannot exist in thought, we cannot go ahead and say that it might nevertheless exist in reality. Because then we would be thinking what we claim cannot be thought.
Suppose you claim that order is just a product of our minds. This puts you in a very awkward position. You are saying that we must think about reality in terms of order and intelligibility, but things may not exist that way in fact. Now to propose something for consideration is to think about it. And so you are saying: (a) we must think about reality in a certain way, but (b) since we think that things may not in fact exist that way, then (c) we need not think about reality the way we must think about it! Are we willing to pay that high a price to deny that the being of the universe displays intelligent design? It does not, on the face of it, seem cost effective.

Oh lordy this is a long one! I’ll only pick out a few bits. This post would be too long if I picked all of it apart. We shouldn’t be surprised at the length though, the design argument must surely be the theist’s favourite one. So who can blame them for throwing the most words at it! Unfortunately more words means more nonsense.

I’ll start with.

But are the order and beauty the product of intelligent design and conscious purpose?

Good question. An intelligent mind will see beauty and order in the most innocuous of things. See Pareidolia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pareidolia). Seeing something as beautiful or ordered does not make it so and therefore does not make it the product of intelligence.

The universe displays a staggering amount of intelligibility

ok… whatever that means, it needs to be defined. It’s not so I’ll move on.

Either this intelligible order is the product of chance or of intelligent design.
Not chance.
Therefore the universe is the product of intelligent design.
Design comes only from a mind, a designer.
Therefore the universe is the product of an intelligent Designer.

In those few short lines we have a false dichotomy (http://www.philosophy-index.com/logic/fallacies/false-dilemma.php), two unfounded assertions, two unsafe conclusions, two undefined poorly explained options and an unconfirmed being. This really isn’t looking good.

“The survival of the fittest presupposes the arrival of the fit.”

Ah, the ol’ tautology gambit. A bit like saying god is good presupposes that god’s deeds are indeed good.

What the author is forgetting is that we only ever see the animals that survive. The author is also not entirely correct because those that survive are fit for their environments because if they were not they would not survive. Those that survive define what is fit. They might not be the best, fit does not have to mean they are the best, they are simply fit enough to got the proverbial shag behind the bushes.

this world of our common experience is a world of pervasive order and intelligibility. That fact must be faced.

Order and intelligibility really do need to be defined; they are thrown about like confetti with utter disregard for how the reader might interpret them. I find this rather dishonest. Are the storms on Jupiter ordered? Are flood waters ordered? Is the jet stream ordered? Is the asteroid belt ordered? What about the oort cloud? Are starling murmurations ordered? Is the explosion of a firework ordered? are the daily cloud formations ordered? are lighting strikes ordered? How about the way commuters pile out of a train station? When terms are not defined, any claim that uses them is of minimal value.

Question 1: Hasn’t the Darwinian theory of evolution shown us how it is possible for all the order in the universe to have arisen by chance?

Notice the jump between evolution and the existence of the universe? It happens several times in the text of this argument and it betrays a poor scientific understanding. Darwinian Evolution never claims to say anything about the universe. The question is incoherent and utterly pointless.

Question 3: But what if the order we experience is merely a product of our minds?

Good question, what is meant by order? Is it defined? Don’t hold your breath, it’s not.

Reply: Our minds are the only means by which we can know reality.

Unless it’s all an illusion.

I’ll not comment on the final sentences because in their attempt to be profound they disappear up their own pious arsehole.

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